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Hallo again to all.

On Trinity Sunday, clergy have traditionally been cautioned that they will make at least one heretical statement in their sermons. Explicating the doctrine of the Trinity without sliding into serious theological error is said to be impossible. So we shan't dare try it! Instead, we're musing about Trinity Sunday as the gateway to 'ordinary time', a day that heralds the long series of Sundays 'after Pentecost', as we get on with living half of the church year without the punctuation of the events of our Lord's earthly life. Your body here!

Ordinary time. Ordinary things. Ordinary life. We thought of this a good deal last week, as we worked with records from one of the oldest American parishes, Trinity Church, in Boston, Massachusetts. Parish churches require the ministration of a priest, a building, and some heat, for starters. Money must be got in some fashion. Founded in 1733, Trinity was supported by the Church of England, by occasional expressions of royal largesse, but primarily through the sale of pews and tombs in its crypt. Until late in the 19th century, the sale or hire of pews was the ordinary way of financing colonial parishes*. Year after year, usually on Easter Monday or Tuesday, an auction was held. Better locations brought higher prices. The practice of pew sale or rent continued for a good part of American Episcopal church history§.

Much of the burden of being a warden in the 19th century was having to pester parishioners who were late in paying their quarterly pew rents. Trinity Boston wardens were harried enough in the 1830s that they hired an agent to act as a collector. And the nuisance of pews and tombs continued beyond death. Since Trinity sold its pews -- charging an annual 'tax' on them as the means of income -- the pews were considered real property and could be sublet or bequeathed. When Trinity wanted to demolish its second building and build a third in Back Bay, the vestry had to chase down every owner, arrange to buy back their pews or tombs, and obtain a quitclaim deed. As some pews and tombs were owned by estates (the original owners having long died), the hours of paperwork were massive -- and some owners proved utterly elusive. The the owner of Tomb No. 3, one 'Harrison', was never identified; in fact, Trinity ended up transferring 26 'unknown' or 'unclaimed' bodies to the plot it purchased in Mount Auburn cemetery.

Every scheme to support parish churches -- from first fruits and tithes to 'pledges' and weekly offerings -- has its difficulties. And this side of heaven, every institution doing the Lord's work still needs earthly support. Through the seven years that we've managed Anglicans Online, we've given little thought to that. Our primary commitment has been to ensure that every Monday, at about 5am GMT, we are 'here for you', as the expression has it. We've been happy to assume most of the costs of our servers and Internet access, computers and software; although we've had a link to online donations and have made a few AO-branded products, we've been somewhat understated about flogging those. The costs of running AO, in a still uncertain economy, are a bit more pressing on us. We'd like to ask for your help a little less obliquely. Could you make an online donation through our secure server? Or purchase some item in our shop? With AO expenses running about €325 a month (UK £217, US $400, CDN $539), every contribution will be very much appreciated. A number of you have supported us in the past and we are deeply grateful for that.

In addition to donations and our shop, we're considering the possibility of offering sponsorship of AO for a week, so that a reader, a parish church, or an Anglican group, for an amount yet to be determined, could 'underwrite' AO for seven days, with an appropriate notice of that generosity on our front page. (No blink banners!) We're also exploring the possibility of AO custom products: for donations at various amounts, we'd individually design any item in the shop. If you have ideas for creative AO fundraising, do let us know.

Whatever schemes we devise to help support Anglicans Online, we promise never to charge view rents or auction AO readership to the highest bidders. (Tombs are an interesting idea, but we've not quite figured out what that means, in a digital sense.)

See you next week.

Cynthia McFarland's signature
Brian Reid's signature
Cynthia McFarland
Brian Reid

Last updated: 6 June 2004

* Making a weekly contribution was virtually unknown, although the idea first surfaced in the 1840s. The concept was thought radical and daring.

§ St Thomas Fifth Avenue, in New York City, sold pews until 1964.

A thin blue line
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